NATO, Former Foes Urge Serbs to Accept Peace Plan
North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense ministers and their former foes from Eastern Europe, including Russia, on Monday urged Bosnia’s Serbs to accept a Western-sponsored peace plan to end the fighting in the former Yugoslav republic.
Meeting in Brussels, officials from 15 NATO members and those from 18 members of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council of former Warsaw Pact states issued a statement saying: “In view of the agreement of the other interested parties, we call upon the Bosnian Serb leadership to agree to the peace plan.”
Croatian and Muslim leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina have agreed to the plan to create 10 semiautonomous ethnic provinces out of the republic. The Bosnian Serbs, unwilling to give up any territorial gains won in battle, are the only holdouts.
NATO already has drawn up plans to send a peacekeeping force of between 50,000 and 75,000 in the event that all Bosnian parties agree to the plan, drawn up by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and former British Foreign Secretary Lord Owen, mediators respectively for the United Nations and the European Community.
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Perry said that “NATO should play an important role and the U.S. stands ready to make a substantial contribution, possibly including ground forces. Contributions from our Eastern partners to an implementation force would be welcome.”
But Canadian Defense Minister Kim Campbell reported that Russia, which had once indicated that it would be prepared to contribute up to 13,000 troops for such service, is now signaling that it would not send significant forces .
She told reporters that Russian Defense Minister Pavel S. Grachev has indicated that Moscow feels itself “overextended” with peacekeeping operations in the former Soviet Union.
Perry declined to say how many troops Washington is considering sending for peacekeeping, and most other NATO members have been reluctant to pledge large numbers of soldiers to such an operation.
Germany, for instance, is still debating whether its constitution allows its large army to serve in potential combat situations outside NATO’s normal theater of operations. However, on Monday, German aircraft, ignoring a Serb threat that they would be fired on, joined the U.S. operation airdropping relief supplies to besieged Muslim enclaves in eastern Bosnia.
In the former Yugoslav federation, U.N. relief officials reported that U.N. trucks evacuated 2,114 Muslims from one of those enclaves, Srebrenica, on Monday.
The convoy, escorted by four British U.N. armored vehicles, arrived in the Muslims’ northeastern Bosnian stronghold of Tuzla after being cleared through the front line by Bosnian Serb authorities. At least two people, including a baby, died during the trip, drivers said.